Design, Develop, Create

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Introduction to systems development

This course reviews management perspectives on developing high-tech digital technologies and their characteristics. We discuss the implications for projects and work: organisational processes, methods, technique, tools and practice.

The innovation engine of an ICT-enable organization is its capacity to configure, construct, create, develop, deploy and maintain high tech systems. However, the collaborative production and delivery of robust systems presents significant challenges and team issues. An understanding of the tools and techniques used by professionals is therefore essential for managers who supervise systems developers or liaise with them during innovation projects. For each era and moment in the history of high tech development there is an associated technical backdrop representing the acme of infrastructure, technology and tools. The technical infrastructure is mirrored in turn by a social infrastructure – specialist knowledge, norms for communication, professional identity, behaviour, and expectations for teams. It is fruitful therefore to learn about the spectrum of current practices and apply theory to (critically) evaluate and subsequently adapt or formulate new processes, activities, and practices necessary for development in the situations we encounter ourselves; thereby better understanding and acting effectively in settings of high tech use-production.

How should a manager, software architect, designer, programmer, team lead or product manager,act to organize and manage high tech systems development projects? My goal is to help form answers to this and to the following questions:
  • What management techniques, practices, lifecycles and frameworks are applied in contemporary systems development projects?
  • How might we integrate the diverse concepts and theories of software systems development, and translate these concepts into personal, team, and management practice?
  • How is value generated and delivered in real situations?
  • What is the significance of new engineering approaches, from agile and lean methods to more functional approaches like CMMI and RUP?
  • How do lifecycles and methodologies balance the tension between a necessity for orderly production and quick responses to changing contexts?
The material covered includes current and emerging organizational/management approaches to development include: lifecycles like SDLC, Waterfall, Spiral; frameworks like CMMI, RUP, ISO 9001; and approaches termed ‘agile’ like XP, Scrum, and Lean Production. The key goal that these software production and systems development lifecycles address is how to create digital media, although they attach differing importance to the need for various system artifacts (design diagrams, code, documentation, issues, etc.).

The overarching objective for us here it is to explore how the generation of any or all system artifacts is produced by underlying social interactions such as joint development, peer review, user involvement, automated testing, use assurance. Consequently system development’s process and its context is itself a kind of social structure for managing production (in the development team) and users. Power is an essential and underlying concept in order to understand the 'assumed' orderly underlying social interactions of programming teams and others they need to deal with in order to 'get the work done'.

Why do we need to think about the processes and structures used for developing high tech products and services? It is true that the emphasis on organizing high tech production has shifted focus from gifted individuals to being a team-based mode of production if not a team-of-teams in case of large-scale infrastructural architectures. Engineers do not start and complete whole projects overnight. Producing value takes time, effort and many small instances of failure and learning to create viable systems. It takes time, people and other technologies to produce these things. Managing the process involves making trade-offs between the ordering of events and activities over time, access to other complex systems (software, tools, work techniques) and the services of other actors. Importantly the very idea of a system implies ‘use’ and modern innovation processes are increasingly reliant on lead user involvement to establish both how the system is used and consequently how it is designed (Von Hippel, 2005).

Positioning the role: managing high-tech production
What does a manager need to know about the IT function in order to manage it? The manager of the IT function needs to know how to go about producing the product, and also, how to go about producing users. However, rather than relegating ‘use’ to a phase of implementation and delivery at the end of the systems production cycle, ‘use’ and ‘users’ have become intrinsic to driving the development process. The following highlights ways of producing, delivering and servicing our demands for ICT, IT and high tech goods. We don’t need to be engineers to manage the process, but we do need to be technology savvy and know enough to make a difference; how to bring technology, business and users together. The technology manager’s role is to bridge the two communities of production and use, to translate, interpret and make sense of the gaps between the technological and customer worlds (Figure below).
Roles translating between technological and customer worlds.
From Scrapbook Photos